It's a safe bet that any successful author has had the same thoughts as you. Before they became a success, they were staring at the words on a page, having reservations about turning in his or her manuscript to a publisher.
Will they like it? Will anybody even read it?
It's funny thinking of a best selling author having those types of thoughts. Even the first Harry Potter was rejected eight times before it was published. Don't you think maybe J.K. Rowling felt a little defeated and maybe even thought to herself, "Is my manuscript worth publishing?" Thankfully she plowed through those thoughts and did end up getting published.
To bring a dose of reality, for every Harry Potter success there are almost countless other manuscripts that are never published, or (perhaps even worse) are published and then never sold or read. We can discount the author's lack of marketing, the timing, the quality of editing, or even the book cover design--yes, there are many things we can blame are the cause of a book being unsuccessful. But it really goes back to the author and his or her story. It is disheartening. To dream so big, to go through all of that hard work, and in the end only to have hopes dashed away.
Would-be authors take a lot on the line when they decide to publish. Their name, their reputation, and their pride are on the line. As an editing manager, I work directly with authors, and I have seen first hand how anxious they are. Especially as their manuscript gets closer and closer to printing, they become quite nervous. "Will they like it? Will anybody read it?"
What I'm trying to say is, you are not alone if you feel this way.
Not that it makes it any easier.
But that's publishing, baby--it's one of those love-hate things.
So there on paper, or your computer screen, is your baby. Your story. Your manuscript. Maybe you've worked on it for years, you've gone through 13 drafts, and you've had every family member, co-worker and friend read it. Now it has come to the point where you either put it away forever, or publish it. You just can't decide. You need help.
How do you know if your manuscript is worth publishing?
Here are some things to consider:
1. Have you had anyone read it who doesn't know you? Readers can give more honest feedback if they don't have a personal tie to you. Ask for good and bad feedback. Crave negative comments. It is through negative comments that you can grow as a writer.
2. Is there a hook? Is the book so compelling that people will be telling their friends that they HAVE to read it? If not, why? Is the character likeable enough? Has the plot been done before? What is so different about your book that makes it worth reading? What could be different?
3. How many rewrites have you been through? Just a few is not enough. Keep rewriting.
4. Have you had a professional editor read it? (Shameless plug.) I work in publishing, and I also edit on the side for a flat fee. There are many good professional editors out there -- get one to read your manuscript. It'll be worth it.
5. What do you know about the publishing industry? Learn all you can or you are in for a surprise.
6. How will you market your book once it is printed? Yes, you--the author--will need to market your own book. That is how it works. What can you bring to the table? Are you savvy at social media? Could you get a reporter to write or do video a story about you? Marketing is almost just as important as the story, so don't skip this.
7. Have you had anything else published? It's relatively easy to get published these days. Magazines, newspapers, online sources -- they all need content. Write up an article that ties in with your story and get it published. See if you can hack it. Ask for feedback. Get known in the industry. Build up your writing/publishing portfolio.
8. Are you a finisher? Will you stick with this through the end? Publishing is a long process. Not only does writing take time (as you well know), but editing, cover design, formatting, etc., when done right and in a quality manner take time. After that, if you stick with it and market it, it can easily take a year or more to gain enough ground to be moderately successful.
I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell authors whether their manuscripts would be successful as published books. Sadly, I don't have one. I wonder if a prediction could even be possible, as there are so many things that have to come together to produce a book. When they are all working together, and the public likes the story, it's magic.